Can I just point out how accurately Tangled portrayed an abusive parent.
Real talk, as someone who deals with similar things from one of my parents, I could point out really specific behaviors and go “yes. that. accurate beyond accurate” and it was almost painful to watch at times.
Aside from the obvious fact that Mother Gothel locked Rapunzel in a tower and exploited her for her hair’s power, there is also a running theme of emotional manipulation through the way she communicates with Rapunzel.
First she lashes out verbally, and when Rapunzel has a natural stress reaction, flinching away or showing emotional pain, she guilts her for that reaction. “Oh great, now I’m the bad guy,” or some variation of the above statement. How many times have I heard that from a parent while having a panic attack as a response to aggressive verbal attack? Too many to count. Turning around and putting the guilt on the other person by making them feel like their reaction is not valid or out of proportion is a form of emotional manipulation.
Basically what they’re saying is “You’re making me feel bad for reacting negatively to my poor treatment of you” which makes literally no sense, but when phrased by guilt like “oh well I suppose you think I’m soooo evil” makes the other person feel responsible.
Repeatedly throughout the movie Mother Gothel infantilizes Rapunzel, guilt trips her, and plays with her feelings to keep her trapped. It’s in the “little” things that she is able to maintain this abusive control. The seemingly small methods of manipulation through how the parent communicates with the child. This gif set clearly such unhealthy communication.
Rapunzel was able to get out from the tower if she wanted to, with her hair. But she never did for her whole childhood, even when she knew she was turning 18, until Eugene showed up. Why? Because she was trapped by her mother emotionally.
Even when Eugene shows up and gets her out of the tower, she’s still in this emotional roller coaster of “I’m free!” and “No, I’m a horrible child.” The blame and guilt becomes internalized. That sequence where she rapidly switches from excited to dejected and regretful seems comical at first but really accurately reflects how she was trapped in that mindset.
Things like the conversation in these gifs might seem minor. It might not seem to have much affect. But the little things pile up. The thing about emotional abuse is it isn’t always a huge dramatic obviously abusive incident. It can be manipulation and gaslighting over extended periods of time and that’s why it’s so hard to point out. If Rapunzel were to call her mother on her abuse in one of these conversations it would be easy for the mother to respond “What? A little thing like this? Stop overreacting.”
Which is why it’s so important to listen to victims of emotional abuse and not invalidate what they’re saying. Even if isolated incidents they point out don’t seem like much, a pattern of manipulation is still extremely harmful.